Tiger Woods says Rory McIlroy "made it look very easy" after the Northern Irishman set the early pace on day one of the US PGA Championship.

Seeking a first major in eight years, McIlroy carded five-under 65 to take a one-shot lead into the clubhouse at Southern Hills on Thursday.

The 33-year-old, who won this event in 2012 and 2014, closed with a birdie on the final hole – his seventh of the day – to put himself in strong contention for another title.

He teed off in a marquee group alongside Jordan Spieth and Woods, who carded 74 and 72 respectively, with the latter impressed by what he saw from McIlroy.

"Obviously you can shoot something in the mid-60s, Rory proved that today," Woods told Sky Sports. "He made it look very easy. 

"He had a couple of shots where he slipped away and he still shot five under and made it look very easy."

McIlroy, who finished second in last month's Masters after shooting a record-equalling eight-under 64 on the final day, is not getting carried away just yet.

"I came in here knowing that my game was in good shape," McIlroy said. "So it's just a matter of going out there and executing the shots that you know that you can.

"Today I did that very well and I just need to try to replicate that tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and not get ahead of myself, but it was a great start."

While McIlroy is in a strong position, Woods faces an uphill battle to make the cut, as he did at the Masters last month, but he is not giving up hope of a big recovery on Friday.

"It can be done, I've witnessed it first-hand, so hopefully I can put together something similar tomorrow and get myself back in this tournament," he said.

The 15-time major winner is competing in just his second tournament since sustaining serious leg and foot injuries in a car accident 15 months ago.

Woods felt some discomfort towards the end of an erratic opening round, which ended with him nine strokes behind McIlroy.

"Physically, I've felt better," he told Sky Sports. "Emotionally, I've actually felt better too. 

"It was frustrating. I got off to a great start today, I did exactly what I needed to do starting out the round, but I did not keep it going.

"I hit a lot of bad iron shots, put myself in a lot of bad spots and never really gave myself any birdie putts. 

"I actually felt comfortable with the driver, I hit a lot of fairways with it, but from there it wasn't very good. Most of my bunker shots I hit were long, came out hotter than I thought. 

"But predominately I just hit bad iron shots. That's not normally how I play, but today unfortunately that's kind of what it was."

Tiger Woods made a bright start to his US PGA Championship quest as he headed out in esteemed company with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.

The star trio played to a bumper early-morning gallery at Southern Hills, Tulsa, where Woods won his fourth and most recent US PGA Championship title in 2007.

Woods had a birdie at his first hole and was one under through three holes, with Spieth and McIlroy soon joining him on that mark.

Starting at the 10th hole, all three began well off the tee, with Woods receiving by far the loudest reception and hitting the longest drive of the trio at 339 yards.

"Do you mind giving me some breathing space please. Back off a little bit," Woods said towards a camera crew as he walked down the first fairway.

He fired a sweet wedge to three feet away from the hole and made no mistake from that range, holing for an immediate birdie.

Woods found the heart of the green at the short 11th, his second, and sent his putt to just six inches away, tapping in for par.

He had a birdie chance at 12 from around 20 feet away but pushed it just right of the hole. McIlroy and Spieth made their first gains at that hole.

Speaking on Tuesday, Woods said he could "definitely" be a title contender, despite this being just his second tournament back since the February 2021 car crash that saw him sustain serious leg and foot injuries. He made the cut at the Masters last month, before fading as the hilly Augusta course took a physical toll on the 46-year-old former world number one.

"My team did just an amazing job just to get me to a point where I could play the Masters and I was able to have that opportunity to play," Woods said. "Right after each round, it was like getting back to the house and we have an ice bath ready for you, and off you go, get on the treatment table and let's keep working at it, keep things going, and it was tough. It was hard. It was hard on all of us.

"But I've gotten stronger since then. But still, it's still going to be sore and walking is a challenge. I can hit golf balls, but the challenge is walking. It's going to be that way for the foreseeable future for sure."

John Daly, the 1991 US PGA champion, was two under through seven holes and held a share of the lead with Robert MacIntyre, Max Homa, Y.E. Yang, Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris early in the first round.

Phil Mickelson's legacy has not been ruined by his contentious comments regarding the LIV Golf Invitational, according to Jon Rahm.

Mickelson has not played since February after he was criticised for comments about the Saudi Arabian-backed breakaway competition, which holds its first event in London next month.

The 51-year-old apologised for those comments and decided to take a break from golf, though he was one of a number of high-profile players to then request a release from the PGA Tour for the inaugural LIV event at the Centurion Club from June 9 to 11.

Mickelson's representatives confirmed at the time that he had not definitively decided on playing in the tournament, or indeed the US PGA Championship, which tees off on Thursday in Tulsa.

The American is the reigning champion, having become the oldest player to win a major when he triumphed at Kiawah Island in 2021, but last week the tournament organisers confirmed he had withdrawn.

While Mickelson's withdrawal may well boost the chances of Rahm winning at Southern Hills Country Club, the world number two is sad not to see one of golf's biggest stars at the event.

However, he believes six-time major winner Mickelson should be able to return to the PGA Tour when he sees fit.

Rahm told Sky Sports: "He's given his life to the sport. Nobody has been better to the fans over a 30-year span and nobody has done more for the Tour than he has, right.

"Obviously Tiger [Woods] took his game to many places, but Phil won over 40 events and six majors.

"That characteristic smile and thumbs up are synonymous with Phil Mickelson. It's a name that is known worldwide.

"I don't think that a couple comments at the wrong time should dictate the legacy of a man.

"If anything, we're in America, the land of opportunity, right? If there's a place where things can be forgiven, and you can get back to where you need to be, it's here. I think given time and the proper course of action, that can happen."

That being said, Rahm understands that Mickelson ultimately brought the criticism on himself.

"He said what he said, he brought it on himself, so it needs to come from him to take it back to where it should be," Rahm added.

Bryson DeChambeau has withdrawn from the US PGA Championship following his practice round at Southern Hills.

DeChambeau appeared set to make his return to competitive action, having undergone wrist surgery after the Masters last month.

The world number 22 showed no signs of pain as he tested out his wrist during a practice round on Wednesday

However, the 2020 US Open champion confirmed on Twitter that he will sit out of the season's second major.

He tweeted: "After careful consideration, I have decided to WD from the PGA Championship. I want to make a full return when I am 100 per cent ready to compete at golf's highest level."

The 28-year-old has endured a frustrating campaign thus far, missing the cut in three of his last four starts.

Among them was a disappointing showing at Augusta, where he missed the cut at 12 over.

Bryson DeChambeau has withdrawn from the US PGA Championship following his practice round at Southern Hills.

DeChambeau appeared set to make his return to competitive action, having undergone wrist surgery after the Masters last month.

The world number 22 showed no signs of pain as he tested out his wrist during a practice round on Wednesday

However, the 2020 US Open champion confirmed on Twitter that he will sit out of the season's second major.

He tweeted: "After careful consideration, I have decided to WD from the PGA Championship. I want to make a full return when I am 100 per cent ready to compete at golf's highest level."

The 28-year-old has endured a frustrating campaign thus far, missing the cut in three of his last four starts.

Among them was a disappointing showing at Augusta, where he missed the cut at 12 over.

Golf's world number two, Jon Rahm, believes teenage compatriot Carlos Alcaraz can benefit from having Rafael Nadal around as his burgeoning tennis career progresses.

Nineteen-year-old Spaniard Alcaraz became the first tennis player to beat both Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the same tournament on clay, on his way to becoming the youngest ever winner at the Madrid Open earlier in May.

Alcaraz has won three of the past four tournaments he has entered, including the Miami Open, moving to number six in the ATP world rankings and emerging as a serious challenger for the French Open, which starts on Sunday.

When asked about Alcaraz's rapid ascent, Rahm said Alcaraz can still learn a lot from 21-time grand slam winner Nadal.

"I thought you were talking about a golfer. I was just confused," Rahm joked, speaking ahead of this week's US PGA Championship. "I've heard about what he's done, and I've seen the results. Pretty impressive, especially in the world of tennis.

"He's got some big shoes to fill, because historically Spain has had great tennis players, and obviously with Rafa out there it can be probably daunting yet really exciting too for somebody like him.

"You have a great reference who's done it right in front of you, so I'm sure he can pick his brain and learn. He's got a great start. Hopefully he can keep it going and be a great champion like many others have been."

Following a tie for 27th at the Masters, Rahm returned to action earlier in May, winning the Mexico Open.

The lingering dynamic this weekend at Southern Hills will be the fact Phil Mickelson will not be there to defend his title, following his controversial remarks about the Saudi-backed breakaway golf tour.

Rahm and Mickelson share the same alma mater and agency, and the former continued to defend the six-time major winner.

"Phil has got to do what Phil has got to do," Rahm said. "He's a good friend of mine. I can't remember the last time a major champion didn't defend a title.

"But he's got to do what's best for him. That's all I can say. I can't say it makes me unhappy. As long as he's doing what is best for him, I can't truly say I'm unhappy.

"I would have liked to see him defend. I know he's played good here in the past. But again, he's got to do what he's got to do."

Tiger Woods has decided to leave great rival Phil Mickelson alone with his thoughts after the reigning US PGA Championship winner pulled out of his planned title defence. 

Amid a continuing backlash over Mickelson's comments about the Saudi-backed breakaway tour, the 51-year-old has elected to skip this week's major. 

Mickelson has not played since February after angering many in the game with his remarks about the Super Golf League – now officially called the LIV Golf Invitational Series.  

The veteran American, who became the oldest major winner in history when he triumphed at Kiawah Island last year, said Saudi Arabia has "a horrible record on human rights" but added he was willing to commit to the league as it was "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape how the PGA Tour operates". 

Mickelson has apologised but missed the Masters and is not ready to return to the PGA Tour yet. He, along with several other golfers, has asked for a release from the PGA Tour to compete in the LIV Golf Invitational Series, which is due to start next month, but those requests have been refused. 

Woods was asked about Mickelson in a news conference at Southern Hills, Tulsa, ahead of the US PGA getting under way on Thursday. 

"I have not reached out to him. I have not spoken to him," Woods said. "A lot of it has not to do with, I think, personal issues. It was our viewpoints of how the Tour should be run and could be run, and what players are playing for and how we are playing for it. I have a completely different stance. 

"I don't know what he's going through. But I know the comments he made about the Tour and the way that it should be run, it could be run; it could be run differently and all the different financials that could have happened, I just have a very different opinion on that. And so no, I have not reached out to him." 

Woods said it was "always disappointing" for a major champion to be absent rather than defending a title. 

"Phil has said some things that I think a lot of us who are committed to the Tour and committed to the legacy of the Tour have pushed back against, and he's taken some personal time, and we all understand that," Woods said. 

"But I think that some of his views on how the Tour could be run, should be run, [there has] been a lot of disagreement there." 

Woods described Mickelson's comments about the PGA Tour as "polarising" and pointed to the PGA Tour's long history, as well as its current lucrative events, as reason to show it full support. 

The 46-year-old pointed to how Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer had been instrumental in the Tour breaking away from the PGA of America in 1968, creating greater earning potential for the players. 

"I just think that what Jack and Arnold have done in starting the Tour and breaking away from the PGA of America and creating our Tour ... I just think there's a legacy to that," Woods said. 

"I still think that the Tour has so much to offer, so much opportunity. I believe in legacies. I believe in major championships. I believe in big events, comparisons to historical figures of the past. 

"There's plenty of money out here. The Tour is growing. But it's just like any other sport. It's like tennis. You have to go out there and earn it. You've got to go out there and play for it. We have opportunity to go ahead and do it. It's just not guaranteed up front." 

Woods, in his second major since returning from injuries sustained in a horrific February 2021 car crash, is feeling increasingly optimistic his body can help his skill set deliver a 16th major championship. 

"I feel like I can, definitely. I just have to go out there and do it," he said. "I have to do my work. Starts on Thursday and I'll be ready." 

Tiger Woods will be joined in a golfing super-group by Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy for the first two rounds of the US PGA Championship.

The trio, who between them have landed 22 titles at the majors, will begin on Thursday at 08:11 local time (13:11GMT) at Southern Hills, the Oklahoma course that is staging the tournament for a fifth time.

Woods, who won the last of his four US PGA titles at Southern Hills in 2007, has played only one tournament this season, making the cut at the Masters in April.

He is continuing to recover from the foot and leg injuries he sustained in a car crash in February of last year, but there were flickers of the old Woods during his performance at Augusta.

Woods said in a news conference on Tuesday: "It's better than the last time I played a tournament, which is good

"We've been working hard. I have days when it is tough and days where we can push through, but we keep working at it."

Woods has 15 majors to his name, McIlroy has four, including two at the US PGA, and Spieth needs a win at this event to complete a career grand slam, having won each of the other three majors once.

McIlroy believes 46-year-old Woods would not have entered this week if he did not believe it possible to contend come Sunday.

"Six weeks is a long enough time to recover from that week [at the Masters] and then build yourself back up again. He certainly hasn't chosen two of the easiest walks in golf to come back to, Augusta and here," McIlroy said.

"But he's stubborn, he's determined. This is what he lives for. He lives for these major championships, and if he believes he can get around 18 holes, he believes he can win."

Jack Nicklaus has revealed he turned down an offer in excess of $100million to be the face of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The breakaway competition will stage its inaugural tournament at Centurion Club near London in June.

Greg Norman is fulfilling the role of chief executive of LIV Golf Investments, but Nicklaus has suggested he was the organisers' initial choice to front the rebel circuit.

"I was offered something in excess of $100m by the Saudis, to do the job probably similar to the one that Greg is doing," he told The Fire Pit Collective. 

"I turned it down. Once verbally, once in writing. I said, 'Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour'."

Phil Mickelson is among the players to have requested to play in the first LIV Golf event, which is worth a record $25m.

The six-time major winner has not played since February following the backlash to his controversial comments about the tour and Saudi Arabia's alleged human rights violations.

He was included in the field for this week's US PGA Championship in Oklahoma, but withdrew last week, meaning he will not get the chance to defend the title he won last year.

But Nicklaus, who played a key part in golf's first breakaway 54 years ago when the PGA Tour branched off from the PGA of America, believes there is a route back for Mickelson.

"My advice to Phil would be to be patient," he said.

"The world is a very forgiving place. But he's the one – he has to decide where he wants to play and what he wants to do."

The season's second major gets under way on Thursday, as the US PGA Championship starts at Southern Hills Country Club.

Despite being included in the field for the tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, reigning champion Phil Mickelson will not be on hand to defend his title.

Mickelson, who became the oldest player to win a major when he triumphed at the US PGA in South Carolina last year, is continuing his break from golf, which came after criticism over his comments regarding the Saudi Arabia-backed breakaway Golf Super League.

While the GSL cloud hangs over the heads of certain players who have requested releases from the PGA Tour, the focus this week will be on claiming the huge prize of a major title.

Tiger Woods is back, after his remarkable Masters return, while world number one Scottie Scheffler is on the hunt for another major title following his success at Augusta.

Stats Perform's experts have taken a look at some of the likely candidates.

No stopping Scottie – Ben Spratt

Only three men have won both the Masters and the US PGA in the same year, with Jack Nicklaus the last to do so in 1975. That is the esteemed company Augusta champion Scheffler hopes to be keeping – and you would be bold to back against him this season. Scheffler ended 2021 ranked 12th in the world and still waiting on his first PGA Tour victory. He has since won four times, including at the Masters, to become world number one and the clear man to beat. The 25-year-old has two top-10 finishes in both entries at this tournament and played a practice round at Southern Hills earlier this month to prepare himself for another tilt.

Rahm makes timely return to form – Patric Ridge

World number two Jon Rahm will tee off in Oklahoma on Thursday on the back of winning the Mexico Open last time out. Rahm has finished in the top 15 in six of the 11 competitions he has featured in this season. Prior to his win in Mexico, the Spaniard's putting had been letting him down, but the rest of his game has been top-notch. Rahm's strokes gained off the tee is a PGA Tour-leading 1.311, while his strokes gained tee to green also ranks first (1.808). The 27-year-old finished T8 in this major last year and his best result was T4 back in 2018 – he could be celebrating back-to-back wins on Sunday.

First major to get Burns treatment – John Skilbeck

Sam Burns missed the cut at the AT&T Byron Nelson, but we should forget that; one bad round cost him and there have been very few of those this season from the 25-year-old. Besides, he followed that 73 with a gutsy 67. Admittedly, Burns also missed the cut at the Masters, but he has titles at the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Valspar Championship in the current campaign, successfully defending his title at the latter after a breakthrough win last year. He has achieved six top-10 finishes in the 2021-22 season, has banked almost $4.5million, and sits second in the FedEx Cup standings. The PGA Championship can throw up funky winners and Burns might just be ready to join the list. He has yet to challenge in a major but that surely must change soon.

Rory can end major drought – David Segar

It is eight years since Rory McIlroy won the last of his four majors at the PGA Championship, but the Northern Irishman can end that drought this week. He produced a late surge to finish second in The Masters, with a stunning Sunday 64. McIlroy is third on the PGA Tour for shots gained off the tee. His two scores of 68 over the weekend earned fifth place at the recent Wells Fargo Championship, setting him up nicely for another major challenge.

Spieth slam? Oh, it's on… – Pete Hanson

Is this the week Jordan Spieth completes the Grand Slam? A tie for 71st and 30th in his last couple of attempts don't make for particularly good omens but Spieth is a player reborn. Having slipped as low as 92nd in the Official World Golf Rankings after last year's Farmers Insurance Open, Spieth has gone about climbing back into the world's top 10 and was back among the winners' circle at the RBC Heritage last month. A missed cut at the Masters was not the start he envisaged to major season but Spieth is at his best with his back against the wall and can firmly be in contention to lift the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday.

Tiger Woods says he got "a lot stronger" since making an incredible comeback at The Masters as he prepares for the US PGA Championship this week.

The 15-time major champion returned to action at Augusta 15 months after he was involved in a car accident that left him with serious leg and foot injuries.

Woods almost lost a leg in that crash, but made the cut in the first major of the year before falling away to finishing 47th.

The legendary American has not played in a tournament since then and says he was understandably in pain after four rounds in Georgia.

Woods is feeling much better as he gears up for another major at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa.

He said: "I've gotten a lot stronger since the Masters. We went back to work on Tuesday [after the Masters]. Monday was awful. I did nothing and Tuesday was leg day. So, we went right back after it."

Woods knows he will never be fully mobile after such a horrific accident.

"Am I ever going to have full mobility? No. Never again," Woods said.

"But I'll be able to get stronger. It's going to ache, but that's the way it's going to be

"I'm excited about [the US PGA]. I'm not going to play that much going forward, so anytime I do play, it's going to be fun to play and to compete. There are only so many money games you can play at home."

Joe LaCava, Woods' caddie, also provided an encouraging assessment of one of the all-time greats' condition.

"I think the endurance is there now. I don't think he's getting quite as tired as quickly." he said.

"Other than the fact he won here 15 years ago, I think it's the stamina and endurance thing that excites him the most."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.